Bobby and me

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Racial Sensitivity 101


This past Sunday, I found myself in a place where you would not

expect someone of my political philosophy. I attended the IUPUI Black Student

Union annual Martin Luther King Day Dinner to hear a speech by former Black,

now very gray, Panther Bobby Seale. I'll give you a moment to pick yourself up

off the floor.

I was invited by my editors here at NUVO to attend. I wasn't

sure if I was going to go at first. After all, I have never been a big fan of

organizations based on identity politics, much less liberal ones. And with all

due respect to Mr. Seale, there really wasn't anything I would expect him to

say about the 1960s and 70s that I couldn't hear from my uncle after a few

beers at a family gathering. However, there was one story he told that I

actually thought should have been the cornerstone of his address.

Seale told a story about how he and fellow Panther Huey Newton,

concerned about police brutality, would take their members down to monitor

police activity. They would be armed, but they followed the law down to the

letter. They were careful not to interfere with police making arrests and, when

confronted, Newton would cite the relevant California Supreme Court case law

and police would back off and let them stay.

I found that to be interesting and ironic, because it is rare

that you hear about revolutionaries using the rule of law to make a point. And this is something that I think has

been lost on much of black leadership, particularly here in the state of


I spend quite a bit of time arguing with individuals about what

opportunities there are for blacks in the Hoosier state. And every time I keep

going back to the point that if you are black, can show up for work on time and

not speak English like it's your second language, the doors will open for you

like its nobody's business. But you have to show up and you have to learn the


During my college years, whether it was Northern Illinois

University, the University of Illinois or St. Louis University School of Law, I

was always butting heads with the professional whining class who complain about

the numbers of blacks who were either in jail, dropping out or facing some

other societal ill. The fingers pointed in every direction except for at the

individual who should have taken some responsibility for his or her actions —

by not breaking into someone's home, buckling down and studying hard or just

realizing that if all this counterproductive behavior isn't working for

everyone else, it will not work for them either. Amazing how the more things

change, the more they stay exactly the same.

The opportunities are endless for blacks, just like anyone

else, if you are willing to show up and learn the rules of the game and start

playing. I have never been a revolutionary; I just decided to learn the rules.

Who would have thought that a 1960s black revolutionary and a modern conservative

columnist would ever have something like that in common?

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Society & Individual